Disclaimer: Don't own it.
A/N: So we come to this. This is a companion piece to my one-shots 'Alone' and 'Enlightened'. Technically, you would only need to read 'Alone' to understand this. But it's probably a good idea to read 'Enlightened' as well, unless you absolutely cannot stand Anakin. I had this piece written before 'Enlightened' and have been very impatient to post it. Today, I decided it needed a little more work. And it's still not where I want it, but I don't know what it is that I'm wanting. And I'm very impatient to post my first overtly Obidala story. So, caution has been thrown to the wind and here we are. Hope you enjoy.
This story takes place two years after the events of 'Alone' and 'Enlightened'
The sun shone brightly, greeting Padme when she opened her curtains and putting her in a very good mood indeed. It was not raining, as she had feared. The picnic at the lake would go off without a hitch today.
Humming to herself, she threw on a simple pale green dress and rushed to the kitchen. Her mother and sister were already there, of course and she knew she was in for the usual cracks about sleeping in and how city life had spoiled her.
"Oh, her Majesty is awake!"
Ah, so Sola would be the one to start things up. Padme stuck her tongue out at her sister, who merely grinned in reply.
"Leave her alone, Sola," Jobal chastised her daughter as she put the finishing touches on a dessert she was making for the picnic. "After all, if she'd been in here, she would've wound up helping us with the bread for the picnic."
"Yes, that would have been disastrous," Sola agreed.
"I BEG your pardon?" Padme feigned shock and hurt at their criticism.
"Sister mine, you are a wonderful mother, a legendary senator and queen…..even a pretty good fisherwoman, come to think of it. But no one could ever accuse you of being a cook," Sola informed her younger sister. Padme scowled, but couldn't argue with her sister on this point.
Leia rushed into the kitchen, followed by her brother and, at a more sedate pace, Ryoo and Pooja. Padme reached down and swung the five year old into her arms, grunting as she did so. Her children were getting heavy.
"Can we wake him up now?" the little girl asked, her eyes sparkling with excitement. Padme shook her head.
"No, princess. He just got here yesterday. You'll get to spend plenty of time with him at the lake later today. And he'll be here for a whole month."
Luke crossed his arms and regarded his sister haughtily.
"I TOLD you we should'a asked Mama first."
A sinking feeling hit Padme as she interpreted her son's words. Sure enough, flicking her eyes back to the doorway, she saw a very disheveled looking Obi-Wan Kenobi standing there, one hand rubbing his head and the other placed protectively on his stomach. Uh-oh.
"Leia….." she began.
"He made the funniest noise when I woke him up, Mama. You should've heard it."
Seeing the pain still lining her friend's eyes, Padme was rather glad she hadn't. She telegraphed a silent apology to Obi-Wan, who merely smiled at her. Luke tugged on the Jedi's hand, bringing Obi-Wan's attention down to him.
"Since you're up, do you wanna see my room?"
The younger Skywalker wriggled out of her mother's arms and marched over to her brother.
"My room is closer. He should see it first."
"I'm the oldest," Ryoo interjected, quite unexpectedly. "My room should be first."
The argument quickly escalated, with a half-awake Jedi standing in the middle of it all. His silent pleas for help had no effect at all on Padme, who began to find it amusing.
"Take it away, Negotiator," she said, receiving a dark look that promised retribution. He managed to usher the four children out of the kitchen, but the argument continued until the group was out of hearing range.
"They've missed him," Jobal smiled as the sounds of the scuffle faded away. "It's been far too long since his last visit."
Padme silently agreed with this. Both Obi-Wan and Anakin had been frequent visitors during her first year on Naboo. More often than not, they came together. It had been awkward at first, but after the first couple of visits a rapport had sprung up between the three of them that was not unlike the friendship they had publicly shared during the Clone Wars. When Anakin had become more than just a token member of the Jedi Council, taking the place of Coleman Kcaj after the Jedi Master's death, his visits had become less frequent. Not long after that, Obi-Wan's visits had also become sporadic. And he rarely stayed more than a few days. This visit was unusually long and Padme found she was grateful for the time with her friend.
"It's my understanding that he has stepped up his training with Tiali," Padme explained, referring to the young Jazbinan Obi-Wan had taken as a padawan three years ago, saving her from placement in the Jedi Service Corps. "Apparently, she's reached a critical point with her lightsaber combat. That's why he's been away so long this time."
"He's very good with the kids," Sola observed, her tone deceptively innocent. Padme glared at her. "What? I'm just saying he's good with the children. He's been a good friend to you, also."
"I've been down this road with you, Sola," Padme replied, her voice not at all teasing as she subtly reminded her sister of their conversation just before the Clone Wars. "And I've discussed my re-marriage several times with you already since returning here. It's not going to happen. I have no desire to marry again."
Sola sighed, turning back to the food she was packing away. Jobal regarded her daughter thoughtfully before also speaking up.
"You've been back home for nearly two years now, Padme. And in that time, you've turned away at least three men who showed some sort of interest in you. Why?"
The former Senator glanced at her mother before looking down at the tablecloth and picking at the material. Patiently, Jobal waited for an answer, hoping that her daughter would finally tell the truth instead of hiding behind her children.
"I don't have time for romance," Padme finally responded. "I have Luke and Leia, I have all of you, I don't need anything else. Besides, the twins are a full time job really. And I don't want them to feel like they're not enough to make me happy."
'Well,' thought Jobal as she exchanged glances with her oldest daughter, 'hope springs eternal, I suppose'.
"You've let them wear you out," Padme half-accused Obi-Wan as he fell to the ground beside her. Closer to the lake, Ryoo and Pooja were attempting to skip stones while Luke and Leia attempted to tackle their Uncle Darred. He wasn't as fast as Obi-Wan, but he was bigger, which made it more difficult.
"Nonsense," he replied, waving his hand at her. "This is why the Council sent me away for some rest while Tiali is working with Mace."
Padme's eyes sparkled with laughter.
"So you could be tackled repeatedly by two ferocious children?"
She shook her head in amusement at that.
"How is Tiali?" she asked after a few minutes of silence. Obi-Wan had closed his eyes, but he opened them again to find her looking down at him with a curious expression.
"Oh, she's fine. An exemplary Padawan, really. I'm almost bored most of the time. She'll make a wonderful Knight, though. And she's showing a gift for Vapaad, which is why I'm having Mace work with her right now."
Padme nodded, knowing a few basic things about the forms of lightsaber combat and so forth. She was surprised when Obi-Wan continued, though.
"In fact, I'm thinking that Mace may take over her training altogether. He hasn't had a Padawan for quite a while. And I believe they're very well suited to each other. Vapaad…..it dances dangerously close to the Dark Side. It's a balance I'm not sure I would be able to maintain myself, let alone teach a Padawan to maintain. Mace has always managed to keep his balance, although he has gotten dangerously close to the edge on occasion."
He doesn't trust himself with a padawan.
The thought hit Padme like a bolt of lightning and it rocked her to the core. How could Obi-Wan Kenobi not trust himself? He was the most trustworthy person she knew.
"How is Anakin?"
Now why did she ask that? Out of any question she could've asked, why that one? Obi-Wan's features became unreadable and Padme regretted her query even more. While her own relationship with Anakin was on firm ground, she knew that the relationship between the former master and padawan had been somewhat rocky of late. In her communications with Anakin, she had sensed a hint of jealousy towards Tiali and the seemingly carefree relationship she shared with Obi-Wan. Although she could see things from Obi-Wan's point of view (Tiali was much more even-tempered and therefore easier to get along with in general), she could also understand Anakin's feelings. No doubt Tiali had felt a shift in dynamics whenever she was with Anakin and it had begun to affect Obi-Wan. Padme felt it would pass, given time. Obi-Wan and Anakin had been through much harder times, after all. The weeks after Anakin and Padme had revealed their marriage came to mind.
"He has a padawan now," came the response. Not, Padme noted, a response to her actual question. But she decided she wouldn't press the issue. Instead, she merely nodded, not bothering to inform Obi-Wan that she had gotten that news two weeks ago from Anakin himself. They heard from him at least twice a week, more when he wasn't on a mission for the Council.
Face to face contact with Anakin lately had been sporadic at best. Although he tried to see the children whenever he could, his new position on the council required him to stay on Coruscant the majority of the time. Padme, though she had managed to establish a firm friendship with her former husband, found she was almost grateful for that. She felt much freer here, with just her and the children. There were times when she was lonely, times when she watched Sola with Darred and felt a keen stab of longing. But she would do fine on her own. She had tried love once. She didn't care to repeat the experience.
"Sola told me last night that you rejected a 'suitor' a couple of months ago."
Well, turnabout was fair play. Ask an unwanted question, receive an unwanted reminder. Still….Padme grit her teeth over her sister's meddling. Just because Jedi were no longer required to remain single didn't mean she should throw herself into marriage with Obi-Wan.
"Why don't you want to re-marry, Padme?" he asked, his voice very quiet.
Oh, this was just too much. She didn't need pressure from Obi-Wan, too.
"Why don't you trust yourself to train a padawan, Obi-Wan?"
She regretted the words the minute they were out of her mouth. But they couldn't be taken back. Words were horrible in that respect. At least she could apologize, though.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"No. I'm sorry. It wasn't my intention to pry."
Padme looked down at the Jedi Master lying in the grass next to her. His expression was open; he was truly concerned about her. She could see that much. Of course, when had Obi-Wan ever been anything but sincere with her?
"Well, the children," she began, her response automatic. Obi-Wan sat up next to her and fixed her with a look that she had usually seen him give a padawan or youngling. She had never seen it directed at her before.
"Try again, Senator," he said, his tone implying that she wasn't fooling him. Her temper flared up for the briefest of moments before she looked beyond the sternness of his gaze. She saw in his eyes a desire to help her and she was reminded of a time when she had felt he was the only one she could trust implicitly. He must have seen a sign that she was relenting, because his features softened, along with his tone. "Padme. Please talk to me," he encouraged her.
With those words, she could no more stop her confession than she could keep the suns of Tattoine from rising.
"I've come to the conclusion that love is over-rated, really. I've had it once, it ended horribly. And I wasn't the only one hurt in the process," her eyes drifted to where the twins were playing with their uncle. "I failed, Obi-Wan. And I had my heart broken. I won't entertain the thought of either one happening again," she looked away from him, tearing pieces of grass out of the ground as she realized she had just finally admitted the real reason she would never re-marry. Fear.
"Perhaps if you began with a friendship," Obi-Wan suggested. "A friendship is built upon trust and respect. Key ingredients for a successful marriage. Or so I've heard."
Padme shook her head.
"Anakin and I began as friends," she reminded him. His eyes twinkled at her and she gave him an indignant look. "What?"
"I'm sorry, Padme. But a few days together when he was nine years old, ten years with no contact, and then another few days here on Naboo and on Tatooine hardly constitutes a close friendship."
She wanted to argue with him, but found that she couldn't. How extremely irritating he could be! Insufferable man!
"So you are afraid." Obi-Wan continued, unwittingly echoing her earlier thoughts. "The Padme I know is fearless."
She brought her head around to face him again.
"That girl doesn't exist anymore."
The searching look he gave her after that comment made her want to look away. But she found herself incapable of movement. There was something in his expression that she had never seen before. Something that almost frightened her, but stirred something deep within her, also. She froze as he reached out, cupping her chin in his hand and drawing his thumb across her cheek. His gentle touch burned into her skin and she suddenly realized with perfect clarity what he had been trying to say. Obi-Wan smiled as he watched her come to her epiphany.
"I've been a Jedi all my life, Padme. Bound by the Jedi Code, to a life without attachments. A life something like the one you're trying to live yourself. Now that so much of the old Code has been rewritten, I often find myself at loose ends, unsure of what I should do next. Options are open to me now that I never seriously considered before. Well, I came to a realization a few months ago. The paths that have been laid out before me, the choices I am able to make….they're all overwhelming to me. So many roads where before there was only one. Still, if I were to take one of the other roads, there was only one that made sense to me. And it led me to you."
Padme could feel her eyes growing wider by the minute. She didn't want to hear this. And yet….she did. Obi-Wan's other hand had found hers now and she looked down to see their fingers interlaced. She couldn't truly tell which hand was his and which was hers. Taking a deep breath, she looked back up at him and was momentarily stunned by the intensity of the emotion in his eyes.
"You have been my friend for many years, Padme Amidala. There is no one in the galaxy that I admire and respect more than you. But I have come here with the hope that we could become something infinitely more dear than friends."
She couldn't speak. Couldn't breathe, in fact. And when he leaned in, she was powerless to stop him. The touch of his lips on hers was soft and gentle. No demands were being made. But a myriad of emotions was conveyed in the simple touch. When he pulled away, he looked into her eyes and smiled.
"I knew she still existed," he said, his tone teasing. It was all he was able to say before she initiated another kiss. And as their lips met again, Padme felt warmth flow through the aching void in her heart. After years of loneliness, she was finally complete.
A/N: Okay. That's it. I do have a thought in my head about a small follow-up to this one. The happy family and all that. But I make no promises. And there are at least three movie dialogue references in this fic. Kudos to whoever can find them. I hope you liked it. Please read and review.